Day 566 [April 21/10] -- Hydraulic steering begins to fail

Today's Report
April 21/10 0800 JST

00°33'N, 96°04'W (North Pacific Ocean, Equator)

A connecting pin dropped out of a key part of the hydraulic steering system today and unless it can be repaired, Saito-san may have to turn back to the Galápagos. 

When he called this morning he said he had spent about 2 hours on his back in the cramped confines of the stern, trying to see how he can replace the lost cotter pin to the port side hydraulic cylinder. The disconnected cylinder is now hanging free.

There are two hydraulic cylinders, port and starboard, that turn the rudder left or right in response to the helm or to auto-steering control. At the moment steering is being done by the starboard cylinder only, which is inadequate in stronger sea conditions and could itself fail at any time. The port cylinder is also leaking hydraulic fluid and it is suspected by Saito 8 Safety Officer Mike Seymour that its "O" ring seal has failed or is near failing. 

Several options are being addressed, including his turning around and going to the main port city of Puerto Ayora on Isla Santa Cruz in the Galápagos Islands. This island is a major stopping point for blue water cruisers and it is expected that local parts may be found, or flown in. Daily flights out of Ecuador serve the island tourist trade.

If a usable pin can be located among the vessel's spare parts, and Saito reaches the Doldrums where the seas will be flat, he may be able to make the repairs. However, if the "O" ring as well must be replaced, then there is no other choice but the port on Santa Cruz.

On his route west, the next port is in Hawaii -- a very long 3,600 nm away.

Judging from the sharp northward turn as indicated by the 11:25 JST beacon report, it's apparent that he'll attempt an onboard fix, first.

Distance in last 24 hours: 99 nm
Distance completed: 20,519 nm
To Yokohama: 7,780 nm (distance remaining: 27.4%)
Heading: 286
Reported boat speed: 5.0 kts (day's average: 4.1 kts)
Weather: Clear
Temperature: 28.0° C
Barometer: 1006 hPa (steady)
Wind (from): Steady at 7-10 kts SE -- expected to remain 12-14 kts out of SE & ESE
Waves: 1.0 to 1.5 m, with rolling boat movement
Current (from): E at 1.0 - 1.5 kt (favorable)
Engine rpms: 0 hrs 
Generator: 8.0 hrs
Sails: Genoa 0%, staysail 100%, mainsail 1-pt reef

Position Map (click to enlarge)